Friday, May 28, 2010

Russia denounces U.S. missile move

Russia has denounced the deployment of U.S. Patriot missiles in Poland as detrimental to regional security and trust.

“Such military activity does not help to strengthen our mutual security, to develop relations of trust and predictability in this region,” said the Foreign Ministry in a statement carried by the Itar-Tass news agency.

A battery of U.S. Patriot air defence missiles, to be manned by up to 150 U.S. troops, arrived on Sunday in Morag, a small town in north-eastern Poland just 60 km from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

“We have stated more than once that we do not understand the logic and focus of cooperation between the U.S. and Poland in this sphere,” said the statement.

It is the first deployment of U.S. surface-to-air missiles so close to Russia's borders.

The missiles will be able to shoot down aircraft and missiles over the entire Kaliningrad region, according to Russia's NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin.

Temporary deployment

Moscow said its questions to Washington and Warsaw had gone unanswered, as had its request to move the missile site farther from the Russian border. The Pentagon said the main purpose of the temporary deployment is to teach the Polish military to operate the advanced guided missile system.

However, in 2012 the Patriot base will become permanent.

Under President Barack Obama's reconfigured missile defence plan for Europe, Poland is also expected by 2018 to host SM-3 missile interceptors capable of shooting down Russian ballistic missiles.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

NATO's Center of Gravity: Political Will

Jorge Benitez: If NATO starts to lose the battle for the political will of its people, it will slowly fade into history. A major public diplomacy effort is needed to convince the democratic constituencies in NATO countries of the alliance’s salience. This is essential to the funding of military efforts in difficult economic times.

NATO must launch a major public diplomacy effort in order to reach out in a concerted effort to the Alliance’s members’ constituencies. More solidarity among NATO members is needed for the Alliance to muster the political will necessary to overcome the external and internal threats to its success in Afghanistan. The issue is crucial to the Alliance’s survival.

In a salient presentation at the Atlantic Council, NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, Admiral James Stavridis, revealed a promising strategy for victory in Afghanistan. He stressed that the Afghan people are key to its resolution and need to be regarded as a center of gravity in the conflict. While the Admiral is absolutely correct, he still misses a decisive point; namely, that the people who constitute the NATO Alliance represent a center of gravity as well.

According to the Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz, a center of gravity is "the hub of all power and movement, on which everything depends" and "the point against which all our energies should be directed." While useful in offensive terms, Clausewitz failed to remind us to protect our own (defensive) center of gravity from the enemy's attack. Thus, although Admiral Stavridis correctly identified the offensive center of gravity in this conflict (depriving the al Qaeda/Taliban alliance of the support of the Afghan people), he ignored its defensive counterpart.

NATO urgently needs to protect its own center of gravity: the support of its people for the Alliance. If NATO loses the political will of the people in its member states, it will not be able to execute SACEUR's strategy and will never have the time to gain the lasting support of the Afghan people. The 2004 Madrid train bombings provide a striking example of how dangerous the lack of public support is to NATO’s mission. The bombings demonstrated that the enemy can influence public opinion and produce regime change, without ever needing to invade a NATO member country or occupying one of its national capitals.

Under the leadership of Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO has made an effort to build the political will within its member states through public diplomacy. The report by the Group of Experts highlighted the need for improvement in this area. "NATO populations should be reminded that the Alliance serves their interests through the security it provides." While such emphasis is a step forward, it is hardly sufficient. NATO needs to invest the same amount of energy and attention to reinforcing its defensive center of gravity (popular support for NATO in member countries) as it is dedicating to the offensive center of gravity (winning the support of the Afghan people).

For NATO to succeed, it is simply not enough to focus on educating leaders in national capitals. All of NATO's members are democracies, and thus it is crucial to invest time and effort into conveying NATO's message to the public at large. Until the Alliance does a better job of informing the general electorate of NATO’s value, it will unwittingly allow for the rise of leaders and governments that will choose parochial interests over the benefits of the transatlantic partnership.

Public diplomacy is not an option in an alliance of democracies, it is essential. Key alliance decisions are made, sanctioned, and funded by national legislatures that pay far more attention to public opinion than to strategy seminars. NATO needs to inform the public about the very real risks to each member's welfare and stress the Alliance's contributions to their protection and prosperity.

An uninformed public may tolerate providing the resources for a vaguely benign international organization and military force in good economic times. But in times of economic crisis, voters will not support political leaders who are perceived to be wasting scarce national resources on opaque efforts beyond the nation’s borders. Voters are even more averse to sacrificing the lives of their children in conflicts that appear distant and non-threatening.

Gen. David Petreus is beginning to win the conflict in Iraq because he understands that "the human terrain is the decisive terrain." If NATO starts to lose the battle for the political will of its people, it will slowly become a hollow alliance, comprised primarily of many bureaucrats and a few warriors. In time, it will follow the WEU into the dustbin of history. If we allow that to happen, we will unsuspectingly put ourselves in great peril.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ukraine Is Not Yet 'Lost'

Sacha Tessier-Stall and Kateryna Zarembo who are analysts at the International Center for Policy Studies in Kiev wrote to New York Times on the issue of Western-Russian-Ukraine triangle ...

Doom-sayers have been lamenting the West’s imminent “loss” of Ukraine for years, and the trend has only picked up since Viktor Yanukovich was elected president in February. In the recent signing of an agreement prolonging the lease of a Russian naval base in Crimea, they see proof of the new president’s desire to cement his country’s status as a Russian satellite.

They’re wrong. Sort of.

True, it’s a bad deal. In exchange for rebates on natural gas until 2019, President Yanukovich has allowed Moscow to station its Black Sea Fleet in the port of Sevastopol until 2042. In doing so, he has allowed Russia to maintain a foothold in a particularly unstable part of Ukraine — Crimea — and to continue to project its military power in the volatile Black Sea region — not a minor development, especially after Russia and neighbor Georgia came to blows in August 2008.

Just as worrying, the rebates will allow the president to postpone reform of Ukraine’s famously corrupt and inefficient energy sector. They are life support for a fossilized system that should long have gone the way of the dinosaurs.

Putting off reform is politically profitable for Mr. Yanukovich, who depends on the support of industrial and energy barons who made their fortunes thanks to corruption and artificially cheap gas. But it comes at a high political cost to Ukraine, which now essentially depends on Russian subsidies to pay for the energy it consumes.

In other words, the deal bolsters Russia’s influence in Ukraine and its claim to a sphere of influence in the region.

But those who see it as evidence of Mr. Yanukovich’s determination to steer his country back into Russia’s orbit are not looking at the right things.

The agreement is less evidence of Mr. Yanukovich’s geopolitical inclinations than proof of his country’s weakness. Ukraine’s economy shrank by one seventh in 2009, and with it the government’s ability to pay its energy bills.

Even Yulia Tymoshenko, a leader of the Orange Revolution who as recently as 2008 had called for Ukraine to join NATO, as prime minister found herself compelled in 2009 to make important concessions to Moscow — including a gas accord so one-sided it had to be revised only a few months after its signing.

Nor, for all its repercussions, does the deal spell the end of European integration in the broader sense. While NATO membership is clearly off the table in the short and probably medium terms, that was evident already before Mr. Yanukovich came to power.

The new president has resisted attempts by Moscow to get Ukraine to join a Russia-led customs union, preferring instead to continue negotiations on a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement with the European Union.

He has described European integration as his “key priority,” symbolically making his first visit as president to Brussels — much to Moscow’s ire. Mr. Yanukovich is less Western-oriented than his predecessor Viktor Yushchenko, but he is not a Kremlin stooge.

Despite his reputation for incompetence, Yanukovich can be a smooth operator. The gas agreement may undermine Ukraine’s position vis-à-vis Russia, but it is popular with industry and many households, whom it saves from higher gas bills (for this year at least).

It also paves the way for a national budget acceptable to the I.M.F., whose deficit-reduction demands have been a major stumbling block in negotiations on the release of further tranches of its emergency loan. Even U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called it evidence of Ukraine’s new “balanced approach” to foreign policy.

More worrying than the agreement’s content is the deeply flawed way in which it was concluded — and what this says about Mr. Yanukovich’s attitude toward the rule of law in Ukraine.

The Constitution prohibits the basing of foreign military installations on Ukrainian territory, albeit in unclear terms. What’s more, the deal was never submitted to Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, as it should have been, and the normal parliamentary ratification procedure was not respected. This, combined with the constitutionally dubious way in which Mr. Yanukovich recently pieced together his parliamentary majority, raises serious questions about his willingness to play by the rules.

It is too early to say that President Yanukovich is intentionally helping Russia “steal” Ukraine from the West. He is more positively inclined toward Moscow than his predecessor, but the truth is that he has been pushed into a corner by a combination of geopolitical ineptness, special interests and pre-existing problems.

The real question is whether he takes his obligations (constitutional and otherwise) seriously. If he doesn’t, both the West and Russia are in for unpleasant surprises.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Did Kim Jong Il order the torpedo strike?

Which interpretation of the (not-so-shocking) news that North Korea sank a South Korean warship is more troubling: that Kim Jong Il ordered the torpedo strike, or that he didn't?

Ruediger Frank, a North Korea expert at the University of Vienna, says it's the latter:

The “cornered tiger” scenario is the only condition, beyond mental illness, under which Kim Jong Il would choose this option. One possible interpretation of the sinking of the Cheonan is that the situation in North Korea is so bad and the regime so desperate that it believes risking annihilation is its only option. But while it is hard to regard the situation in North Korea as rosy, it has been through worse times. With the currency reforms of 2009, the regime was able to win some time in its otherwise hopeless fight against the inevitable transformation of North Korea’s society when it expropriated the growing wealth from the newly emerging middle class and tried to partially demonetize the economy again. And as far as we know, prior to March 26, there was no intelligence pointing to unusual troop movements; no increase in communications that might have signaled something out of the ordinary was about to happen or signs that a change in the military’s alert status was about to take place.

Of all the possible scenarios for why North Korea would have been involved in the Cheonan incident, the one that should worry us the most is the possibility that it was NOT Kim Jong Il who gave the orders. While in 2008 one could have imagined, under certain circumstances, that a young recruit overreacted and shot a South Korean tourist at Mt. Kumgang, it is much less likely that the captain of a North Korean submarine had a short fuse and sank that corvette. He must have done so upon receiving orders, or at least a “go ahead” from someone above him. The higher up we move in the command chain, the stress motive becomes less likely. A lieutenant commander in his sub might think twice; a rear admiral will think ten times before pulling the trigger.

If the North Koreans torpedoed the ship, and if it was not done after a self-destructive order by Kim Jong Il, this may be proof of a destabilization of the current leadership in Pyongyang. Sinking the Cheonan without consent by the top leader would be an open act of insubordination. An autocratic leader who does not have his lieutenants under control becomes a liability to the system. It is fear and the unchallenged authority of the top that keeps an autocracy together. Many of us have argued that such considerations had allowed Kim Jong Il to take over power from his father so smoothly despite his very different personality: the elite knew that regime stability depended on a strong and undisputed leader, and he was the only realistic candidate for the job.

Yet, years have passed since 1994, and North Korea has changed substantially. A famine, a set of failed economic policies, and Kim’s obvious health issues have created a situation of frustration, insecurity, and nervousness. The Pyongyang elite will be holding their breath and watching closely how Kim Jong Il reacts. What if he does not succeed in creating the impression that sinking the Cheonan was his idea? Even if so, this is a catch-22 since it invites a potentially destructive counter reaction by South Korea and the United States. If it wasn’t done on his command, will Kim Jong Il conduct a major purge of the culprits like his father did in 1956, when a trip to Europe was used to launch a coup against him? If he doesn’t, then the vultures will get more courageous.

Frank worries most of all about a rapid and messy regime collapse, leading to "a humanitarian disaster, a last-ditch effort at a military solution, or the active involvement of superpowers like China."

There are clearly a lot of folks in the region who are also worried about this scenario. But it's worth noting that North Korea already is a humanitarian disaster. At some point, Kim Jong Il's regime is going to have to end before that situation changes. I don't see any signs that outside players, save perhaps China, have any hope of micromanaging some sort of smooth transition to a more decent government.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Advanced Research Workshop - "Perceptions of NATO: a balance 60 years after" (17 e 18 de Maio)

“Perceptions of NATO: a balance 60 years after”, directed by Luís Nuno Rodrigues (ISCTE-IUL e IPRI) and Volodymyr Dubovyk (Odessa N. University). This Advanced Research Workshop will provide an assessment of how NATO and its mission are perceived today in the world. This topic is particularly relevant when the Organization just completed 60 years of existence and is in a process of redifining its strategic concept. The ARW will evaluate how NATO is seen and perceived both in member countries and in countries that do not belong to the Organization. Special attention will be given to the younger generations, raised after the Cold War, and to the way they see NATO’s role, mission and utility in the 21st Century. (also here)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

SIMOTAN V - Official Journal

For those who would like to take a glimpse at how SIMOTAN V developed from 5 to 8 May, please take a look at the Official Journal published here and here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ten Recommendations for David Cameron’s Administration

After 13 years of Labour government, Britain’s relationship with the European Union (EU) needs to be recalibrated. Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown presided over massive transfers of Britain’s sovereignty to the EU while denying the British people a referendum on important constitutional changes such as the Lisbon Treaty. The new British foreign secretary, William Hague, has stated that he will implement a “distinctively British foreign policy.”[1] The following 10 recommendations will allow Hague to fashion a more transatlantic-orientated approach to his government’s European policies:

1. Do Not Join the Euro

For EU elites determined to create a European superstate, a single European currency is the ultimate prize. However, the current economic crisis in Greece demonstrates the shortcomings of creating a political union without a sound economic foundation. Britain should not underwrite failing European economies, let alone provide the European Central Bank and the European Commission the power to set Britain’s interest rates and other economic policies by embracing the Euro.

2. Introduce a U.K. Sovereignty Bill and a Referendum Lock

At the last general election, all three major political parties promised the British people a referendum on the EU’s proposed constitution. In addition to providing such a “referendum lock,” a U.K. sovereignty bill would further affirm the authority of Parliament over the EU. In order to restore public trust in manifesto commitments, the sovereignty bill and referendum lock should be introduced in the first year of the new government.

3. Bring Back Britain’s Rebate

In 2005, Blair agreed to give up a portion of Britain’s rebate from the EU’s budget in exchange for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Through November 2009, this decision cost Britain €10.5 billion ($13.3 billion), and there has been no meaningful reform of the CAP.[2] French President Nicolas Sarkozy—whose country receives the largest portion of CAP payments—even shut Britain out of talks on the future of EU agricultural subsidies.[3] Prime Minister Cameron and Foreign Secretary Hague should follow in the footsteps of then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who first secured the British rebate in 1984, and restore Britain’s rebate.

4. Repatriate Policy Competences from the EU

It is estimated that EU social laws will cost Britain £71 billion ($105 billion) over the next 10 years.[4] Legislation such as the Working Time Directive has been damaging to Britain’s economy and will prove especially harmful as the government seeks to regain economic competiveness in the years ahead. The British government should therefore advance proposals to repatriate key policy areas from the EU’s regulatory juggernaut and subject any further provisions to their “referendum lock.”

5. Oppose a Unilateral Move to Raise EU Emissions Reduction Targets to 30 Percent

The EU pledged to increase its emissions reduction targets to 30 percent if an international agreement could be reached at Copenhagen in December 2009. Although the international climate change negotiations collapsed, the EU is now proposing to unilaterally pursue the 30 percent target at a cost of €81billion ($103 billion).[5]

6. Abolish the EU’s Parliamentary Sessions in Strasbourg

For one week per month, the European Parliament transfers its entire staff from Brussels to Strasbourg, where it holds monthly voting sessions. This travelling circus costs the European taxpayers around €200 million per year ($300 million) and wastes valuable time that could be better spent critically scrutinising EU legislation.

7. Maintain the Primacy of NATO in Europe’s Defense Architecture

NATO guarantees Britain’s security as well as that of its European and North American allies. Importantly, it ensures that Europe and America are able to collectively defend themselves in the event of an attack. It is critical, therefore, that NATO is not undermined by duplicate defense arrangements such as the European Security and Defense Policy, which will draw away critical resources and undercut NATO’s political solidarity.

8. Press Britain’s NATO Allies to More Fairly Share the Burden in Afghanistan

Britain and America are among a handful of nations disproportionately shouldering the burden of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan. It is vital that Britain’s NATO partners step up to the plate by providing additional combat troops, equipment, and political support for the new counterinsurgency strategy to which it agreed last year. Britain should also press its European allies to spend NATO’s benchmark of 2 percent of their GDP on their national defense.

9. Put Defense at the Heart of National Security

The Liberal Democrats support the prioritization of climate change in Britain’s national security strategy. The next government should not redirect already scarce funds from security and defense priorities toward costly and unnecessary climate change measures. Britain’s national security strategy should focus on the clear and present dangers to the security of the U.K. and its allies including terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

10. Press the EU to Implement Targeted, Crippling Sanctions Against Iran

The United Nations has imposed three rounds of sanctions against Iran in an effort to convince Tehran to give up its illicit nuclear weapons program; it is highly unlikely that a fourth round of sanctions will change Tehran’s mind. The EU should therefore impose targeted and crippling sanctions on Iran—on top of the U.N. sanctions. Britain should lead Europe in imposing sanctions on energy imports, domestic oil refinery capacity, and international banking. Sanctions should also be brought against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and companies affiliated with it.

Rediscovering Thatcher

In 1988, Margaret Thatcher laid out an Atlanticist vision for the future of Europe as an alternative to the relentless integration and centralization pursued by EU elites. The British government should revive this model and advance a strong transatlantic alliance, with the Anglo–American Special Relationship at its center.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Georgia's NATO Dream

If there was ever any doubt that of the NATO membership process being a political exercise, one needn’t look further than the Alliance’s decision to grant tiny, fractured Bosnia-Herzgovinia a Membership Action Plan on April 22 during the NATO gathering in Tallinn.

According to EUObserver, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen marked Bosnia’s accession to the traditional integration pathway with caveats over the country’s readiness, underlining the divisions within the Alliance over the MAP.

“Last night Nato foreign ministers made an important decision to invite Bosnia and Herzegovina to join Membership Action Plan, but made clear that there are still important reform issues that need to be solved,” said Rasmussen (1). However, another NATO statement glossed over uncertainties.

“Bosnia and Herzegovina has made significant progress on reform,” said the NATO statement. “NATO foreign ministers welcome its decision on destruction of surplus ammunition and arms and its new ISAF contributions [soldiers in Afghanistan].”

Alliance disagreements notwithstanding, it’s now become only a matter of time before Bosnia joins the 27-member security pact, as no country to be awarded a MAP has ever been denied eventual entry. Naturally, however, the Tallinn decision also begs a question over NATO’s political priorities. Bosnia, for whatever its merits, can hardly be considered a more adequate candidate for NATO than Georgia, whose own ISAF contributions significantly outweigh that of Bosnia’s. Currently, nearly 1000 Georgian troops are engaged in both reconstruction and peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan with no national caveats. Bosnia has ten.

On broader measures, Georgia also does better. Though Bosnia and Georgia rank similarly according to Freedom House’s 2009 Freedom in the World index, at 4:3 and 4:4, respectively (lower is better), Georgia is far ahead according to the Heritage Institute’s 2010 Index of Economic Freedom (26th place to Bosnia’s 110th) and Transparency International’s 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index (66th to Bosnia’s 99th) (2).

By any objective measure – both military and socio-economic – Georgia should have gotten a MAP long before Bosnia, which is arguably faces an equally, if not greater, challenging set of political circumstances borne from violence in the 1990s. Bosnia’s greatest advantage over Georgia, however, seems to be the comparative lack of patronage by Moscow to its own separatists. Though Russia has expressed support for the Serbian enclave in Bosnia, its geographic distance and relative obscurity on the Kremlin’s foreign policy agenda (compared to Georgia or even Serbia and Kosova) make Russia’s political investment in Bosnia a far lesser challenge to its application for a MAP. This is similarly true for Macedonia, which would have already achieved NATO membership were it not for a Greek veto over its name, or Albania, which has already joined the Alliance.

Though NATO representatives have in denied Russia’s influence in Georgia’s membership bid in the past, these counter-examples of NATO alignment by states showing, in many cases, even less progress than Georgia makes these denials dubious. Accordingly, it is long past time for NATO to acknowledge this reality for what it is rather than obscuring its true rationale with rhetoric about reform.

Still, among most foreign policy analysts, it’s no great secret that Georgia’s stalled proposal for NATO membership is being held captive by Moscow and, by proxy, the interests they command in Europe. Obviously, Georgia cannot accede to the Atlantic Alliance under the same standards as other countries.

Instead, Georgia’s unique position requires a different set of solutions. First, Georgia must continue to pursue meaningful reforms aggressively and consistently. Although there are many elements in Georgia’s political class – both in government and the opposition – that would prefer to slow, stop, or even reverse the trend in reforms, the chance for NATO accession will heavily rely on the quality and reach of Georgia’s reform process. In the 1990s, similar doubts clouded the case for the Baltic states’ applications to NATO, but the speed and thoroughness of reforms left no doubt of those countries’ readiness, and deservedness, for NATO membership. In other words, Georgia must be far and away better on every metric to earn realistic consideration, let alone join. This must go beyond the preachy pronouncements regularly aired by Georgian politicians about successful reforms, but rather should be reflected in such things as economic growth, peaceful and democratic transfers of power, a viable loyal opposition, and a truly free media.

Also, Georgia’s precarious defense situation vis-à-vis Russia simply must be resolved. Without a doubt, under present and foreseeable conditions, there is no appetite in NATO to accept a member that is constantly harassed by the specter of war with Russia. In some ways, this is something of a chicken-and-egg situation. Many Georgian policymakers regard NATO as the single best way to deter Russian aggression, yet NATO is unlikely to invite Georgia to the Alliance if it is perceived as a simmering crisis waiting to happen. This is not a conundrum that can be solved merely through good trade relations or even inordinate contributions to international peacekeeping efforts, but will require devising a strategy that will either persuade or compel Moscow to treat Tbilisi with greater respect for its territorial integrity and, more importantly, its foreign policy orientation.

In some quarters, this has translated into pushing for concessions to Moscow or even mortgaging Georgian sovereignty for greater leniency from the Kremlin. Putting aside the fact that such a policy would obviously negate NATO membership and defeat the purpose of Georgia’s quest for inclusion into the Alliance, NATO itself is unlikely to be in any hurry to invite states that it sees as Russian proxies. More to the point, a Moscow-aligned Georgia is not likely to fulfill the reform and governance requirements of NATO for accession. Clearly, this is a non-option.

Alternately, a more plausible option for Georgia would be to create conditions in which Russia has no choice but to withdraw its aggressive posture towards Georgia. As this is unlikely to be fulfilled by mere acts of diplomacy – even recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent would not satisfy Russian foreign policy goals – Georgia should instead look to make the proposition of another invasion one of unacceptably high risk to Russia.

Currently, Georgia’s military is oriented towards interoperability with NATO operations and command structures – probably in an effort to ‘prove’ its worth as a NATO partner. Though laudable, on its own it will almost assuredly not result in NATO membership. Instead, Georgia’s military should be developed expressly and explicitly for the task of territorial defense.

Creating this ability in the Georgian armed forces would be no minor task, as it involves not just a quantitative increase in the size of its military, but also in procuring defense systems and acquiring new capabilities. Perhaps more than anything, Georgia may want to reconsider its current focus on its ground forces, which alone will never be able to resist a full Russian invasion. Rather, the Georgian armed forces should consider investing in its long-neglected and near-invisible air forces, which can more quickly respond to defense contingencies and act as force multipliers for ground and naval forces. Conceivably, a couple of squadrons of multirole fighters could police Georgian airspace and allow for ground attack units like its existing SU-25s and attack helicopters to support ground operations. Perhaps more importantly, the deterrent role of an advanced air force could prevent such a situation from ever happening in the first place.

Of course, there are obstacles to acquiring this capability as well. Besides the steep costs normally associated with procuring and maintaining advanced fighters, the de facto arms embargo that is currently in force against Georgia makes acquiring such equipment doubly hard. However, the case for selling Georgia defensive equipment is a comparatively much simpler task than banking on a sudden change of heart by NATO, and particularly more-so given France’s apparent willingness to sell Russia a wish list of arms (3). Though hardly a foregone conclusion, there are enough potential sellers of multirole jet aircraft – both new and secondhand – to leverage a purchase of the equipment Georgia needs to defend itself.

Georgia faces an altogether different set of expectations from other countries in its NATO application process that cannot be resolved by deft diplomacy or good reforms alone. For Georgia to truly make headway towards Euro-Atlantic integration, it must make the cost of another Russian invasion unacceptably high for Moscow. Though Tbilisi would never win in an arms race with Russia, it can at least develop its defenses to a point where Moscow’s threshold for a military option is appreciably raised. A more secure geostrategic position coupled with strong reform progress is the only way for Georgia to ever have a chance of joining NATO and forever freeing itself from the long arm of Moscow.